Racial Profiling In America Today.pdf

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					Dale Bebeau

Dr. Preston

Expository Writing Composition 1°

November 27, 2013

                            Racism: Racial Profiling In America Today

       In what most people equate to slave labor, race segregation, indentured servitude, or the

exploitation of a race, racial profiling is one of the many major aspects related to racism

occurring anywhere in the world, and it still occurs today. “The use of personal characteristics or

behavior patterns to make generalizations about a person” (Webster’s Dictionary) as it’s defined,

in the context of using someone’s race, heritage, or color. This type of generalization still occurs

today, whether it be in the civilian capacity: the public’s right to determine what they will, or in

an official one: the use by law enforcement to determine courses of action. People have defended

the right to use slaves, determine what races are sub-human, and own people as property, but

today, we believe in a world where no person can be denied fair and equal access to anything

available based on any factor such as race, color, creed, gender, age, education, etc.

Unfortunately, the people who’ve suffered injustices often had to fight for their rights today, and

allowing our people to return to a state of legal bigotry and racism would be a detriment to their


       People know the dangers of racism and what it leads to, most would argue against it due

to its destructive nature. It led to over a hundred years of legal segregation, because even the US

Government deemed it righteous to participate in. (Separate but Equal & Plessy v. Ferguson)
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Some still believe it’s their right to rank people as necessary and, while it’s not illegal, this can

lead down a path toward inequality for some. I will discuss my reasons for why it’s viewed the

way it is and what people can do to change or encourage those views. If newer, better ideas

appear, we should embrace them, and if our ideas are challenged and bested, we should be

prepared to alter them.

       Today, there is less racism than ever before, not because we forced people to stop being

racist, but because it’s no longer socially acceptable. There are no segregated bathrooms, no

segregated seating areas, no separate neighborhood, no separate schools. Segregation, once

upheld by the United States Supreme Court, is no longer in effect. “Separate but equal” was one

of the cornerstones of the Plessy v. Ferguson outcome, in which the “constitutionality of state

laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities” (Encyclopedia of American Studies) was

called into question by Homer Adolph Plessy against John Howard Ferguson, the judge presiding

over his case in Louisiana. The Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education would later

overturn Plessy v. Ferguson, but it would not end racism in the U.S. A favorable opinion of

racism would not end in the United States until long after these cases and many smaller like it. It

would take it’s effected people tens of years to curb the racism and violence that stemmed from

the idea that a people could be inherently sub-human, less than others, for no other reason than

they were a different skin color. People’s opinions must change before their actions do, and

people slowly realized that they had demonized, mistreated, terrorized, and disenfranchised

blacks and other races, for no credible reason.

       The idea that a person can be defined by the way they look, the place they come from, the

ideas that they hold, and the things that they know, without question, is unintelligent. It is the

idea that walking up to a person, you have ideas about who they are, and you won’t challenge
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those. If you take an open approach to people and allow them to cast themselves in their own

light, you get a better understanding of who you’re conversing with. People judge people every

day, without so much as a word. Look around you in a crowded place, you have ideas about

everyone around you, it’s human, to judge, it’s instinct, it’s survival. People use it every day, in

the office, at the store, on the way home from work. To some, it could be the way they do their

job best, applying ideas about who they’re dealing with to every encounter. Law enforcement

does this, often on a daily basis, and here’s where racial profiling comes in. When you see

someone of another race, do you have a reaction? Does something change for you in how you

approach them, talk to them, and think about them? Is that racial profiling, and how do you know

if you are? That is what some deal with every day, creating ideas in their heads that just by

talking to a certain person, an outcome is expected.

        The New York City Police Department has been in the news many time recently,

applying, what its citizens believe is racial profiling, to their policing tactics. “Stop and frisk” as

it’s referred to in the public, is a policy where “…police officers stop and question pedestrians,

and frisk them for weapons and other contraband,” and it is outlined by New York State

Criminal Procedure Law section 140.50. (ABC News) These are based on the decision of the

United States Supreme Court in the case of Terry v. Ohio, “which held that the Fourth

Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is not violated when a police

officer stops a suspect on the street and frisks him or her without probable cause to arrest, if the

police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is

about to commit a crime and has a reasonable belief that the person "may be armed and presently

dangerous. "” (Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, at 30) Racial profiling is claimed to be a “key part of
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the program” by those who criticize it, but it’s the NYPD’s Operation Clean Halls that has kept

the officers continuing the practice.

       Most department officials state the facts, that “In about ninety percent of cases, no

evidence of wrongdoing is found and the stopped person is let go.” (Washington Post) However,

“Some NYPD officers have objected publicly to the department's use of stop-question-and-frisk

paperwork as a performance metric, which they claim encourages officers to overuse the practice

and creates public hostility. Activists have described this as a form of quota, a characterization

that department representatives have denied.” (New York Times) Many people would like to

think that, if the system were to go away, no person’s civil rights would be infringed upon in a

systematic way and that crime levels would not rise. However, on the contrary, since the

introduction of newer types of policing strategies by the NYPD, such as ‘stop and frisk’, New

York City has seen a major decrease to the crime rate over the last ten years. Violent crime and

petty crime alike, the NYPD accredits these drops in crime to increased technological

surveillance measures and more effective community policing.

       However, is it right to sacrifice some privacy for increased security? What the majority of

critics of ‘stop and frisk’ believe is that by allowing the police to accuse you of a crime “just by

what you look like or where you are” (American Civil Liberties Union) you can be unfairly

subjugated to unnecessary and obtrusive investigations. They claim that Blacks and Latinos are

unfairly targeted because of their race and also because they live in “high crime areas”.

Determined by the police, these areas may be the subject of more foot patrols and increased

contact with pedestrians. The police refer to this as ‘Community Policing’, where cops go out

and meet the citizens that walk the streets and the people that work on them, rather than just sit

behind the wheel and respond to calls. People criticize that contact with the public is more often
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with minorities, who, the police may believe, are more likely to be committing a crime. This type

of racial profiling concerns some citizens, making them feel like the police is out to get them or

find the smallest crime to arrest them with.

       Racial profiling has also supposedly existed within other divisions of the NYPD, such as

the counterterrorism bureau which is tasked with protecting New York City from potential

terrorist attacks. This division often deals with very dangerous threats and has been given a wide

range of capabilities to fight foreign and domestic terrorists. In the past the NYPD has been

caught closely surveying students of Muslim dissent were classified as potential threats due only

to their relation to the Muslim community. This obviously caused outcries by citizens due to the

fact that they were not targeted because they were criminals, but targeted because of their

religion. This then led to an investigation that discovered the FBI and multiple New Jersey law

enforcement agencies were assisting the NYPD in their surveillance efforts. This led people to

believe that the NYPD had continued to monitor Muslims long after 9/11. Information gathering

agencies shared data on anyone who happened to be in the path of the watching agencies.

Outrage from people affected and civil rights groups ended up bring the situation to the attention

of U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen. A hearing was called to discuss the legal implications

though “[She] did not say during the hearing whether she will allow the ACLU to peer through

the NYPD's files. She said she would consider a motion the civil liberties group is likely to file

seeking an injunction halting police spying on Muslims.” (Huffington Post)

       Creating a way to allow the profiling of individuals to become a mainstream part of our

lives, suspicious or not, is generally accepted as a nuisance and many people are fighting it.

Creating the illusion that certain people, with no prior evidence, can be monitored much more

than others for unknown reasons, is one that leads to the monitoring of all citizens at large.
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Stories breaking on the National Security Administration and its wide sweeping ability to

monitor just about everyone exemplifies what happens when you give an oppressive group the

power to monitor everything, they can and they did. This began with smaller groups in

America’s past, such as communists during the Cold War, the Japanese during World War II,

and now Muslims during or wars in the Middle East. Focusing on a group of people and

scrutinizing them unfairly is racial profiling. A belief that these people have done something

wrong even with no prior clue they have, is racial profiling. A system that believes it is right

eventually allows for the public to believe this is right, or vice versa, where the public impacts

the system. Going back to one of my early points, allowing our nation to return to a time when

racism was allowed, even encouraged and enforced, by our government is not the way to keep us

safe. As much as racial profiling may take the bad guys off the streets, it also creates the illusion

that some types of people are inherently bad, and that it’s easier to assume they’ve done

something wrong than take the time to understand them.

       Racial profiling is often looked at as a way to return to a time in which racism was

accepted and society believed it was appropriate to participate in. These past acts of racism,

perpetrated by the same agencies that are berated today, cause tensions even when there

shouldn’t be any. An example would be the March 2nd, 1991 beating of African-American man,

Rodney King, in which, after a high speed pursuit, LAPD officers attempted to arrest King, only

after suffering injuries due to multiple baton strikes. This event, recorded from a near-by

resident, would later reshape the LAPD, and many other departments, as we know it today. This

event caused the widespread rioting and looting of the City of Los Angeles after the officers on

trial for the beating were acquitted of the main assault charges. Many African-American

communities in L.A. were severely upset over the incident and the subsequent ruling that the act
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was condoned by the LAPD. Conflict lasted for almost a week causing over 50 deaths, thousands

of injuries, 7,000 fires, and nearly $1 billion in financial damage. (TIME Magazine) Most

violence perpetrated was done by gangs in the L.A. area. The black gangs took advantage of the

situation, and caused widespread death and destruction in the South Central Area. Only after the

combined efforts of the LAPD, LASD, CHP, California Army National Guard, US Marines, and

other outlying agencies, did the riots subside. Out of the fighting, brought a cause for things to

change in the government, and a different approach to community policing. The chief of police

and the mayor stepped down, the acquitted police officers were retried by a Federal Court, the

damage was repaired, and the LAPD redesigned their community policing strategies to instruct

use of less-than-lethal munitions, more use of force options, and better training on how to handle

a combative subject.

       This entire conflict was brought about either because of racism or the idea that racism

played a part in these decisions. Whatever the nature of one’s idea to take matters it their hands,

they make a conscious decision to take action. Taking action isn’t always right, and it doesn’t

always end well. As long as you fight for what’s right, you never fight in vain. Though, if you

are just out to profit, as many looters were, you’re no better than the people that you disagree

with. The 60’s civil rights movement proved than nonviolent means to come to an agreement can

succeed. Deteriorating the fact that peace can bring about change will only invite violence into

society, causing radical terrorism that exists in our world today. However, this isn’t a race issue,

it’s a people issue. Embracing all peoples is the way to understand that we’re not all the same,

and that our differences bring us together, not pull us apart.

       In as small a place as possible, we shouldn’t judge others by the color of their skin, where

they came from, who their parents are, who they appear to be. The key to successful
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relationships, is always putting the other first. Putting yourself in their position, you should be

happy with the outcome. Treating others as equals and not excluding them is important. When

we start discerning between people based on outward appearances, you lose the human quality,

they become a picture. They become a number, less than a name. You determine their role, not

them. You imagine what they are and what they’ll become, without understanding them. These

are what defines profiling, and doing it on a race level, only creates a broader group of the same

person in a racist’s mind. The key element to humanity is individualism. Lose that, and you look

at people as a class or group. That’s how people maintain their power, real or imaginary, over

others. Racism is the feeling of power over others, that a group can be weak and inferior.

       It’s these determinations that let entire countries follow the illusion that a people are bad,

and that they should be shunned, removed form society. We’ve seen this before, to the extreme,

with the Jewish people living in Germany during WWII. The categorization of people into

groups, especially ones that are categorized as lower, is the slide toward different ideas about

those people instead of as individuals.

       Racial profiling can be as simple as asking a black man in a predominately white

neighborhood what they’re doing, or asking a Mexican man if he has his citizenship

identification on him. These little steps may seem small, insignificant really, but they can add up

to invasive and obtrusive practices that create distrustful relationships between people and the

police. Treating people of race differently or making assumptions based on unknown

assumptions creates tensions between people of different races. Education and the

encouragement to explore new ideas from different sources keeps us looking for new ways to

solve old problems.
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       As a society, we choose to accept people, or we choose not to. In your own way, you can

create whatever images you want in your head, however, don’t bring bias into the world where it

impacts your decisions and makes life different for others. As children, we’re taught that we’re

all different and that being different is good.

       In the past, we’ve subjected many different people to degrading and inhumane treatment

unfairly, whether it be the natives, immigrants, blacks, the Chinese, the Japanese, Arabs,

homosexuals, females, and more. Honestly, we can’t fix those things, and we will never erase

our misguided feelings toward them. But today, we are the best that we can be; we’re less

intolerant than we’ve ever been before, thankfully. It is our hope that we can continue this stride

into the future, to protect our future form having to learn these truths the hard way. That on-one

deserves to be treated less than anyone else for any reason. We must open our gates to whoever

might find themselves there, and we must exemplify peace though giving, not force. It is only

through knowledge that we expand our ideas.

       These are all areas that should be expanded upon and ones that I’d like to elaborate

further with. It is important to remember that not all are treated equally still today. Just because

you cannot relate or you have no experience doesn’t mean you should detach yourself from the

notions of fairness and equality for those less fortunate. There are many facets of racism still in

existence and we can’t fix them all overnight. They range from prejudice to hate crimes,

organizing for the sole purpose of striking fear into minorities to avoiding other races. Simple or

complex changes to society will help create a more accepting society.

       Over the years that we’ve broken down the barriers of race, we’ve celebrated our

diversity like never before. We’ve now dedicated entire parts of our year to the education of the
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history of African-Americans in our society, so to have Mexican-Americans become in this

country. These exist to educate our young Americans so that they understand what they’ve gone

through and the strides they’ve made alongside us. Creating a positive atmosphere toward

diversity has created a way for people to better understand each other and learn from one

another. As Hillary Clinton once said, “What we have to do... is to find a way to celebrate our

diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities.” It is imperative to

create a safe environment to discuss our differences without causing harm to our relationships.

Nothing is more sought after than peace, but in a world divided, it isn’t always easy.

       If anything is to be taken away, it is that we will never stop improving and that we will

always overcome our obstacles, smarter than before.

Dale Gray Bebeau
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        Adely, Hannan. “Book describes broad NYPD surveillance of Muslims.”
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      Cannon, Lou. “Prosecution Rests Case in Rodney King Beating Trial.” Washington Post,
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      Sledge, Matt. “NYPD Muslim Spying Program Does Not Exist, City Claims In Lawsuit
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